OXFORD, Miss. (AP) Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan is 6-foot-7 with broad shoulders, plenty of athleticism and a surprisingly soft touch around the basket. She also, at times, has displayed quite a temper.
So when an Ole Miss player slammed into McCowan during a rebound attempt and knocked her to the floor, Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer had a few extremely nervous moments.
”A year ago, she might have stood up over her and punched the kid,” Schaefer said.
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But on Sunday afternoon, McCowan got up as a flagrant foul was called and calmly walked away. In many ways, it was Schaefer’s favorite moment during No. 4 Mississippi State’s 66-44 victory over rival Mississippi.
”Her evolution, her maturity, has been so important,” Schaefer said.
McCowan, a sophomore, scored 17 points and grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds to earn her second double-double of the season and first in Southeastern Conference play.
Dominique Dillingham scored 12 points and Victoria Vivians added 11 for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State (25-1, 11-1) has won five straight games since its only loss of the season against South Carolina.
McCowan has become an increasingly important part of Mississippi State’s success as the season’s progressed, scoring in double figures in seven of the last 10 games despite coming off the bench. Her production was particularly important on Sunday considering Vivians – the team’s usual leading scorer – was just 3 of 21 shooting from the field.
”I just have to pick up where someone else has left off,” McCowan said.
Ole Miss (15-10, 4-8) made it clear early in the game that it would be aggressive, diving all over the court for loose balls and pushing the pace on offense at every opportunity. Rebels’ coach Matt Insell earned a technical in the first quarter for arguing about a foul call.
The in-your-face approach was effective for a while, but Mississippi State never looked rattled. Then with several Ole Miss players in foul trouble, the Bulldogs went on a 24-4 run in the second quarter to make it 41-18 at halftime.
Ole Miss was led by Erika Sisk, who scored 14 points. The 44 points were a season-low for the Rebels, who shot just 16 of 54 (29.6 percent) from the field.
Insell said his team missed several layups in the second quarter that contributed to Mississippi State’s run. The Rebels also had no answer for McCowan.
”We ran into a little buzzsaw tonight,” Insell said. ”State played pretty good and played hard. All credit to them – they’ve got a good team.”
McCowan was the star on Sunday, but Mississippi State senior Chinwe Okorie has also had a very good year in the post. Okorie, at 6-foot-5, is nearly big as McCowan and the two players have caused plenty of problems for opponents.
”Her and Chinwe allow us to separate ourselves and really be an elite team,” Schaefer said. ”When you have two aircraft carriers like we have, and those kids are averaging what their averaging, and shooting at those percentages, it really allows us to separate and be special.”
McCowan and Okorie were a combined 10 of 14 from the floor against Ole Miss, scoring 23 points and grabbing 22 rebounds.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are rolling heading into Thursday’s home game against Georgia. McCowan continues to develop into a force in the paint. Her big game allowed the Bulldogs to easily survive an off-game by several starters.
Ole Miss: The Rebels were in the game for about a quarter, but Mississippi State was simply too big and talented. Ole Miss has now lost six of its last eight.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs return home to host Georgia on Thursday.
Ole Miss: The Rebels host Auburn on Thursday.
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